Jeni and I don’t have kids. At least not in the traditional, “all-American, buy a minivan, ballet, soccer, baseball practice, work ’til we’re 65 to pay off their college, vote everyone else a tax increase, do it all for the children” sense of the term. That’s probably one of the biggest reasons that we’re able to attempt something so foolhardy as to dump all our worldly possessions, move onto a sailboat, and cruise around the world for a few years or so.
We do however, have a furry little 8lb. sack of dead weight lounging about the boat whose every need we have a tendency to go out of our way to accommodate. Little things onboard, such as the netting on the lifelines, the litter box tucked back in the quarter berth, an ever present warm lap to sit upon, bags and bags of kitty treats, cans of tuna, etc. And now, a new set of stairs so she can climb up into bed and snuggle with us at night. She is, after all, nearly 16 years old and it’s getting harder for her to make the jump up. And besides, I’d be willing to bet she’s cost us far less money, and given us far less attitude than your 16 year old. Well, maybe not the attitude part…
Up until now we’ve been using a plastic “dock step” to get up into the v-berth, but it’s actually a bit short for the cat and it takes up too much room in front of Jeni’s hanging locker. I’ve wanted to do something that complimented the interior joinery for some time and recently saw another Tayana somewhere on the internet that had a very nice set of v-berth steps. They looked to be a perfect match to the ones at the companionway and thought “Why didn’t I think of that?” Unfortunately, teak is $30/ board-foot and it didn’t seem prudent to shell out $250 on a set of “cat steps.”
Poplar from the local home center seemed more within the budget, and a little creative stain mixing would make it match the rest of the interior. The cabin sole slopes up at the v-berth, so laying out the angles for the side stringers relative to the stair treads and the floor was a bit tricky. Also, can’t have the toe of the ladder blocking the door to the head. Then of course there was the task of measuring to not only make the vertical spacing of the steps just right for our little princess, but also the horizontal off-set wide enough that she can hop up or down from one to the next. Ughhhh.
With all of that down on paper, the actual cutting and gluing part was a breeze. The treads are mortised into angled slots in the stringers, and then glued and screwed in place for strength (hey, these are people steps also). I whipped out a quick router template and cut some oval hand holds to make moving it around the boat a bit easier. It took a blend of two different color wood stains over the pale white poplar to approximate the aged look of our varnished teak interior, and a few coats of semi-gloss polyurethane to give it the correct amount of shine. Bent metal l-brackets were screwed to the tops of the stringers and hook over the teak fiddle on the v-berth filler to hold it all in place. A few strips of grip tape was the final touch to make sure one of us (most likely me) doesn’t slip and eat shit on the way into, or out of bed.